The New Orleans Police Department has drafted or revised more than 200 policies this year, city officials said — a sign of progress in a department under federal orders to reform.
However, those policies, completed June 30, have yet to be made public or approved by federal oversight officials.
The changes are aimed at improving a raft of criticisms from federal officials, Deputy Mayor Andy Kopplin explained last week to the City Council.
“These policies provide the framework for every aspect of policing,” Kopplin said, “from how police are authorized to use force to how they investigate allegations of misconduct and how they arrest individuals.
“The new NOPD policies conform to national standards as well the requirements of the consent decree,” he said, referring to the federal-court approved agreement from January that governs the reforms.
The policies are being reviewed by both Sheppard Mullin, the law firm hired as an independent monitor to oversee the department’s progress, and the U.S. Department of Justice, which sued the City leading to the consent decree, said Tyler Gamble, a spokesman for Mayor Mitch Landrieu.
The monitor has had the policies for more than 100 days — well beyond the 15 business days the consent decree gives the firm to file any formal objections. However, that deadline was waived, said Daniel Cazenave, a former police officer contracted by the city to work as a liaison with the Department of Justice.
Also addressing the City Council last week, Cazenave said the monitor received the policies Aug. 8.
A Sheppard Mullin representative said the firm wouldn’t discuss the matter on the record.
The objection process is important because it ensures that the frontline changes are in line with the overarching requirements of the consent decree. Cazenave said 42 policies in particular have to be reviewed by both the monitor and U.S. District Judge Susie Morgan, while the rest of them need only approval by the monitor.
If the court doesn’t object to a policy, the police department must implement it within 30 days, according to the consent decree. The court agreement also sets out a timeline for reaching agreement on policies for which there are objections.
With the 15-day window waived, it is unclear how long the monitor has to review the policies. Councilwoman Stacy Head tried to get that answer from Cazenave last week, who said only that it’s a work in progress.
In response to similar questions from The Lens, Gamble emailed minutes from a federal court status conference held in Morgan’s chambers Sept. 6, which read:
A target date of October 1, 2013, was set for the Monitor and the United States to complete their review of six policies that the parties agree should be reviewed on a priority basis: use of force, misconduct, bias free policing, field training, search and seizure and secondary employment. The United States noted that its review of the use of force and field training policies may take longer given their length and complexity, which the Court acknowledged.
It remains unclear whether the NOPD’s agreement to implement policies is affected.
Thirty days after implementing a policy, it is supposed to be posted online for the public to review, according to the consent decree.
Peter Scharf, a criminologist and adjunct professor at Tulane University, said the 15-day review period was too tight to begin with.
“These things have been simmering for 40 years and they’re not going to get fixed in 45 days,” he said.
The monitor is starting with roughly 42 policies, “which were flagged as high priority,” Gamble wrote in an email Tuesday. “Then, the Monitor will review the remaining policies.”
In a separate email, Gamble said the policies would be posted online once they are approved.
The Justice Department did not respond to several inquiries asking whether it has received the revised policies. However Cazenave told the council that it has, and Gamble said Justice was reviewing the policies.
“The city has been working on these policies and based on an agreement between the parties, no DOJ policy comments are due at this time,” wrote a representative from the Department of Justice in an email Wednesday.
The end doesn’t lay with the policies themselves, Scharf said, but in their implementation and whether citizens can see improvements in their interactions with police after officers are fully trained.
“New PowerPoints will not change the police department,” he said.